County to regulate taxis, change business license process

COVINGTON — Commissioners recently agreed to pay a consulting firm to research ways to improve the county’s business license application process and regulate taxi companies.

At their Sept. 3 meeting, commissioners approved two task orders with The Collaborative Firm of East Point. The first, for $7,200, will pay for the firm to review the county’s current business license/occupational tax ordinance, forms and processes and research national best practices, then make a recommendation to the board on how to improve the process.

It’s been 10 years since such a review has been conducted, said County Manager John Middleton, who said the review is “part of our effort to make doing business with Newton County easier.”

In an email responding to follow-up questions, Middleton said the Planning and Development Department has been updating its software and is now working on the business license component “that will improve our work flow processes and the new customers intake and annual renewals.”

“Some process changes will be related to how information is entered, shared and linkage to the zoning ordinances. Our current process has not been fully reviewed for some time and is fairly labor intensive. Technology improvements may allow for public portals and online application,” he said.

The board also approved a task order for $4,680 for The Collaborative Firm to research and make recommendations on regulations of taxi operations, which appear to be a growing business in Newton, Middleton said.

Currently there are six taxi services registered in the unincorporated county, double the amount in 2010.

“The state leaves regulation of taxi cab services up to local government. Other jurisdictions strictly regulate the business, and not having any regulation may encourage those that cannot meet the appropriate standards in other communities to operate here. Providing guidelines for the safe passage of children, the elderly and others without transportation resources is critical,” he said.

“Taxis are essentially privately operated public transportation, and as such you want to ensure through reasonable regulation, that service providers are operating safe vehicles, properly insured, have good driver safety records, with background checks of drivers and owners,” he added.